Tampa’s new fm talk radio station represents shift from politics to sports gas dryer vs electric dryer

But as CBS Radio prepares for the August debut of the bay area’s first FM sports talk station — the latest in a string of sports-oriented FMs created by the company while building a national network — the question arises: Has the future of commercial talk radio shifted to sports and away from politics?

"I think people are burned out on the strident tone we’ve taken in political talk," said Ben Hill, senior vice president and Tampa market manager for CBS Radio. "Sports is a huge growth area on TV and online, so there’s a huge opportunity there."

The format replaces the Adele and Maroon 5 songs now featured on WSJT-FM (Play 98.7). The debut will cap months of speculation about which local media guys (and they’re mostly guys) will land jobs in the largest expansion of local sports talk the bay area has seen in a long while.

"In a market like Tampa, we’ll have a sports radio duopoly — locally centric on FM and national on AM," said Chris Oliviero, a former intern for Howard Stern now the senior vice president of programming for CBS Radio who has led its efforts to establish FM sports talk stations in Boston, Washington, Detroit, Dallas, Baltimore, Pittsburgh and now Tampa.

Other local changes will include those at Genesis Communications. The smaller, family owned company based in Pinellas County announced plans to end its syndicated ESPN shows in October for stations in the bay area (WHBO-AM 1040) and Orlando, which means they need new sports talk programming.

"Advertisers don’t care much about people over (age) 55," said Charlie Sislen, an industry analyst and partner at Maryland-based Research Director. "Sports radio delivers men aged 25 to 54; an upscale audience with an emotional connection to the subject."

Nearly 80 percent of radio listeners in the Tampa Bay market never access the AM dial, according to ratings service Arbitron. (This explains why Clear Channel recently began simulcasting WFLA on a special "translator" 105.9 FM frequency limited to Hillsborough County.)

In total listeners (6 a.m. to midnight, Monday through Sunday), WFLA is the highest-ranked AM station in the market, placing 12th. The next AM is WDAE, ranked 16th, according to Arbitron. WDUV-FM (105.5) is the top-ranked station in the market, according to Arbitron.

"Sports talk is the new news talk," said Gabe Hobbs, a St. Petersburg-based radio consultant who once supervised talk programming for radio giant Clear Channel until he was laid off in 2009. "It’s a lot like what we did 20 years ago on news talk stations … talking about the male lifestyle the way guys talk in a sports bar after a softball game."

"Traditional talk radio is too obsessed with politics," said Hobbs, who gave Beck his first political talk show in Tampa when the then-Top 40 DJ wanted to try something new. "CBS figured out if you put this (material) on FM, young men live there and you’re able to attract a different talk audience."

Official talent announcements have yet to be made. But that hasn’t stopped speculation online and elsewhere about who might pop up on The Fan, including former Lightning player Chris Dingman, former Buccaneer Anthony "Booger" McFarland and Tampa Bay Times sports columnist Gary Shelton.